Star Trek: The Next Generation

"When the Bough Breaks"

1 star

Air date: 2/15/1988
Written by Hannah Louise Shearer
Directed by Kim Manners

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Few episodes defy logic and common sense as egregiously and obviously as the awful "When the Bough Breaks." I must say, I feel like a real bastard reviewing season one of TNG (even knowing full well that the show will later get much better), where the episodes — sometimes barely watchable — are getting some of the lowest ratings in all my years of reviewing.

The mythical world of Aldea, hidden for centuries behind a cloaking shield, appears before the Enterprise, and its inhabitants invite the crew down in an attempt to negotiate a trade for some of the Enterprise's children. The Aldeans are desperate because they're infertile and want to preserve their species. When the Enterprise crew refuses, the Aldeans take the children with their superior-tech transporter, saying they have no choice, and subsequently force Picard into negotiations which, if you think about from the Aldeans' point of view, are pointless and moot.

The episode becomes an unworkable "parable" of the most tiresome sort. I've always hated it when an entire planet/society is reduced to five boring people and three boring sets. Here's a storyline so full of holes that we find ourselves asking question after question. Like, gee, do the Aldeans realistically expect to repopulate their world with only six kidnapped children? And, gee, are the Aldeans such slaves to their own laziness (and their magical "Custodian" provider) that their scientists, even with their superior technology, can't figure out in three decades what Dr. Crusher can figure out in three days? And, gee, the Aldeans aren't even curious enough to look behind the mysterious door to see what powers the "Custodian"? And, gee, don't you think the children, separated from their parents, would be a little more upset and a little less resigned? And, gee, wouldn't that kid Harry be harder to bribe than with the concept of wood sculpting, even if his real dad makes him take calculus? And, gee, isn't this a really lame episode, with simplistic answers the Aldeans are hopeless dolts not to figure out, meaning it's all that much more tedious for us to watch them learn?

Previous episode: Too Short a Season
Next episode: Home Soil

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44 comments on this review

Corey
Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
I personally liked this one. However, it is difficult to believe that no one on the planet would possibly imagine that that a possible reason the entire race on the planet might not conceive might be due to a planet-wide effect (the planet cloaking device) -- especially over decades of time!. Big plot hole, unless their intelligence was affected which the show did not say it was.
Rosario
Sun, Jun 10, 2012, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
"I must say, I feel like a real bastard reviewing season one of TNG (even knowing full well that the show will later get much better), where the episodes ā€” sometimes barely watchable ā€” are getting some of the lowest ratings in all my years of reviewing."

laughing laughing laughing thanks jammer! :D
Rikko
Tue, Jul 31, 2012, 6:07pm (UTC -5)
I like how you make very funny reviews of super-boring episodes.

This is one of those episodes that you don't remember a damn thing after a while. It lets you so unaffected from what's going on that becomes pointless to watch.

Btw, I've said "boring" so many times now, but hey! It's TNG Season 1, so brace yourself.
xaaoz
Sat, Nov 3, 2012, 1:04am (UTC -5)
I can accept that Aldeans wanted children to re-populate, but gee, even Wes?
DPC
Tue, Nov 13, 2012, 9:05pm (UTC -5)
Ms. Sheear's stories for TNG were different.

But not in a bad way.

They're (IMHO) refreshing, exploring venues of sci-fi not really touched on.

Calculus in the 7th grade? Cool!

Abducting kids as means to get around a sterility problem? This is remarkably adult sci-fi, and not a stupid sexcapade as so many earlier TNG episodes devolved into.

But the Aldeans would not make good parents. They're too hyperfocused on art and forgot how to build the tools they use, much less in discipline - the one aspect of raising children that is completely ignored, apart from Harry's father, and how did Riker know Harry's name? Anyway, that trope (forgetting how to build things) is not uncommon in sci-fi, but the application in this story is novel.

Even WESLEY WONDERBRAT isn't the cure-all. Okay, the children do start to get upset toward the end, at least the girl who played the music. Wes did seem to have to tell them all not to comply, and is having difficulty convincing them as to why...

But a cloaked planet -- cool idea, but surely a starship traveling at warp or impulse might go *SMACK* into it, since it's only rendered invisible -- it's still there, and ready to be the proverbial car that the starship (or, in this case, the proverbial deer) is waiting to greet... without the headlights.

3.25 of 4 stars from me, despite my nitpicks.


Nick P.
Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 9:39am (UTC -5)
Wow, Jammer, I completely disagree with you. I would go so far as to say you might not have "got it"? The Aldeans are so stuck in their ways ,old people = old culture, that they cannot see the trees from the forest. I thought it was a wonderful episode, with great effects, good score, good acting, and great Picard SWEAR!

I agree that the Aldeans negotiating with the Enterprise at all was kind of a silly plot point, and only taking 6 kids was essentially meaningless, but in the annals of meaningless Star Trek plot points, this is certainly not even in the top 10.

I think this was a well done episode, it moved well, and all the players had believable motivations, which is all I ask out of space-drama. I say this is a highlight of season 1.
DG
Thu, Dec 20, 2012, 7:55am (UTC -5)
Nick P, I agree.

My favorite line in all of Star Trek is in this episode: Things are only impossible until they're not.
Van_Patten
Tue, Jan 8, 2013, 6:49pm (UTC -5)
Oh boy, it would appear that '11001001' was looking more and more like an isolated one- off. This episode really hasn't aged well. The basic premise, as Jammer says, is inherently ludicrous, although this episode seems to have attracted a significant number of defenders in the Comments here. I could take the point that the concept is an intriguing one but the implementation is dreadful.

Stumbling across the hitherto mythical world of Aldea, and the Aldeans want something the Enterprise will be extremely reluctant to give up.

Hoary, predictable and simplistic, I erred in my review of 'Too Short a Season' - this is, for me the low point of Season 1- thinking ahead to the remainder of the season, I can't quite think of anything this poor. The plot makes Wesley into the 'Mary Sue' , having the brilliant idea of 'maintaining the computer', and whilst I love Jerry Hardin as 'Deep Throat' in the X Files, here he fares badly, coming across as absurd in the role of potential 'villain'. The scenes following the children's abduction are pour rire, as the parents sit around apparently barely bothered that their kids have been abducted. No - Sorry, for me this is a definite turkey - Half a Star from me - though fortunately at least two of the next three episodes see the series turn in the right direction.
William B
Sun, Mar 24, 2013, 5:30am (UTC -5)
I take back what I said on a previous comment, in which I said that the three worst episodes of the season were "Code of Honour," "Justice" and "Angel One." Rewatching this, this is way worse than "Justice" and "Angel One." Actually, I found it harder to watch than "Code of Honour," though I don't know that I'd say that it's worse.

My favourite part of this episode is when they use the big suspense/action score and have an *act break* for the passive resistance scene. And the ironic thing is that a couple of kids half-heartedly not eating genuinely *is* the most exciting thing in this episode.

So, which of the girls do the Aldeans figure Wesley is eventually going to breed with?

I appreciate that this episode does have its defenders -- I am glad to hear that others enjoyed it more than I did. But seriously, this was *painful* to get through for me in a way I really hadn't prepared myself for. I can't even sift through my mind enough to articulate how badly it played.

1/2 star.
Gojirob
Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
The thing that bothers me here also bothered me in DS9 S2's Paradise - the lack of fury. Civilized people or no, not only was this kidnapping, but they did something every kid knows to try and avoid - taking something after you were told you couldn't have it. A simple line like this could have aided the weak story.

Picard : Understand that you are forgiven, but that this is far from forgotten. The time may come that you regain the knowledge of your ancestors, and perhaps even perfect your cloak against harming you. But take this as a given : However well hidden you once more become, Aldea will be watched, and a repeat of this loathsome tactic will not go well for you. Read that however you see fit.

No vengeance. Just some blatantly stated displeasure, if only for the 'angry-at-you-for-not-giving-up-the-kids-to-start-with' spoiled brat attitude. I think a sad relic for TNG of S1 was this idea that you can never ever take jerks to task, even verbally.
Adara
Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
The first half of the episode was great. The thought of parents losing their children is chilling. But then things started to get stupid, and it just kept going downhill. I give the first half 3 1/2 stars and the second half a reluctant half star.
ender4life
Sat, Jun 7, 2014, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
Am I the only one who noticed that there's another random boy in the group? In some shots there's a boy besides Wesley and Harry, making a total of 7 children. In others he's gone and there's only six.
This is my only problem with this episode. Otherwise, it's just as believable as the other crazy plots from season 1.
KevinW
Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 9:42pm (UTC -5)
For some reason, back in 1988 I recorded "When the Bough Breaks" and "Home Soil" onto VHS, so I've watched those episodes more than any others in season 1.

Actually the Aldeans' motivation for negotiating is established, if only just barely. When the spokesman guy is first talking to Riker, he explains that the Aldean economy is based on mutual exchange; whenever something is received, something else must be given. So they owe the Enterprise fair compensation for the children. Or something.

But yeah, this episode is terrible. The effects and costuming have not aged well. The child actors' performances are totally unconvincing. The reaction of the parents is ludicrous in both scripting and performance; from their reactions you'd think they were being told that their insurance rates were going up, not that their children were being abducted permanently. Was there any point to the subplot about the Enterprise being tossed away, other than padding out the episode? The planet-wide cloak is an interesting idea, but is also a can of worms. If Starfleet has access to that technology, why didn't they use it to forestall the Borg and Dominion invasions? Sloppy writing.
CPUFP
Fri, Jan 16, 2015, 9:53am (UTC -5)
These plots would be so much more believable if we were not always told that a dozen persons make up the whole population of a planet. Why not just say that this is one country on the planet, or even better, why didn't they use the "colony" device more often? It made sense in "The Ensigns of Command" and "The Survivors".
Dylan
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 1:57am (UTC -5)
Enjoyed this episode and also your take on it.

One line that stood out for me was Aldea leader and Riker in the negotiation
Riker says "We sympathize with your situation. But what you ask is not possible."
Aldean Leader says "And that your final answer" and Riker says "Its our only answer"
Picard of course knows that is not true and continues the negotiation stalling for time.

The computer has taken over the planet and what they think is their savior (computer tech) is killing them. Kinda similar to our planet? Hmmm...




Tyra
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 6:56am (UTC -5)
I agree with Jammer that the plot is illogical when Dr. Crusher can find cure in a few days and advanced race cannot figure that out in eons.

I do like the part where Aldeans encourage kids to follow their feelings (encourage them to do what they love to do such as art & music) instead of thinking (calculus).

PS. The angelic little girl's face reminds me of a like a younger Miranda Kerr.
CPUFP
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 10:05am (UTC -5)
Tyra:

"I agree with Jammer that the plot is illogical when Dr. Crusher can find cure in a few days and advanced race cannot figure that out in eons."

This is a common thing in Star Trek which I hate. It's understandable that the Enterprise will often encounter civilizations that have made certain scientific discoveries (yet), just like they often meet near-omnipotent beings. But the way the crew keeps coming up with quick solutions to problems which these other civilizations have been laboring on for ages is just too implausible. I get that they do it because the problem has to be solved in the course of a 45 minute episode, but they could at least make the crew work a little bit more to get there.
CPUFP
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 10:06am (UTC -5)
What I meant to say was: "It's understandable that the Enterprise will often encounter civilizations that have *NOT* made certain scientific discoveries (yet)"
Shannon
Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 5:05pm (UTC -5)
Gene Roddenberry once said that the character of Wesley Crusher was based on his own personality and life experiences. Explains a lot, which is why Gene was once again made irrelevant by Season 2, so that some real creativity could be injected into the show... This episode (what was it called, something about a bough breaking) was so bad that I remember thinking at age 16 "oh please let this get better, it's so bad."
Diamond Dave
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 3:21pm (UTC -5)
I wonder if I was watching the series as it was originally broadcast I'd still be tuning in after a run of episodes that have really struggled?

This is inoffensive enough, but as others have identified the plot holes are manifest and the character motivations muted and underplayed. It just doesn't land any emotional hits.

And by the end it turns into a clunking allegory of the destruction of the ozone layer, throwing us out of whatever story there was and into a "we thought technology was the answer - what fools we were" conclusion that was tired before it was rolled out as a thousand other sci-fi standbys. 1.5 stars.
Grumpy
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 6:37pm (UTC -5)
Diamond Dave: "I wonder if I was watching the series as it was originally broadcast I'd still be tuning in after a run of episodes that have really struggled?"

Bear in mind, that level of TNG was all we had at the time. Plus, we were learning how to watch it while the writers were learning how to make it. So tune in we did, and we liked it!
Kiamau
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 2:07pm (UTC -5)
The Custodian borrows heavily (rips off) from the great work "The Machine Stops."
Jason R.
Tue, Dec 8, 2015, 11:19am (UTC -5)
There are a few musical notes that get played in this episode prominently when the children are on screen. You know the ones I mean. I need only hum these notes to my friends and we all groan.

This episode is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Just wretched.
petulant
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
For me this episode was so bad it was good
Dave
Fri, Feb 12, 2016, 10:34pm (UTC -5)
Like I said before, I still can not fathom how TNG made it to a 2nd season. Season 1 has a few nice ones, but over all is just a comically over-sexed rip off of TOG.

Gene, we all love ya, but if you stayed in 100% control of TNG it would have died by the end of S3 and we would have had no DS9, Voyageur or movies beyond maybe a Star Trek 7 wishing Kirk and Co farewell.
Peter Coutts
Wed, Nov 16, 2016, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
I certainly think that EM Forster's classic sf story-'The Machine Stops' was being consciously honoured in this episode.
Most of the characters in that story have no concept of how the planetary machine actually works either.
I cannot say I never disagree with Jammer as I found this story more interesting than the last one with the Binars but the shmalz was overdone and the wrap up pretty unconvincing.
Strejda
Thu, Nov 24, 2016, 10:14am (UTC -5)
It's pretty funny this is one of the few episodes in this season, that truly tells a story you shouldn't be able to do on TOS, as it relies on there being kids on the ship-so it adds in an old TOS "alien society ran by a computer" cliche.

I mean, this kind of story would have hard time not ending up boring under any circumstances, but dear god is this story the personification of beige. This is certainly not TNG at it's stupidest, silliest or even dullest but it is at its blandest. Even the freaking clothing is blaaand.

The whole "we are perfect in the future" was particularly annoying here. Little kids learning calculus, Crusher calming down a mother for acting somewhat concerned over her kid, even the kids on the planet act like they are just kinda meh about everything.
Tara
Fri, Jan 20, 2017, 3:16pm (UTC -5)
Heh heh.

I actually like this ep just fine when I first saw it - pleasant, somewhat suspenseful - but I still enjoyed the review.

I agree with Nick P though: the culture made perfect sense as a society that had let their brains/curiosity go to sleep for generations. They didn't have scientists. Even their artists seemed to rely on magic tools (little Harry - scuktping by waving an odd thing over a solid substance!! But is it still sculpting when it takes no hand-skill Hines by decades of practice??)

Would have made more sense if all X dozen Wnterprise kids had been taken, but that actually never bothered me until I read this review.
Mark
Tue, Jan 31, 2017, 5:29pm (UTC -5)
Maybe they could have solved their problems themselves if they had spent a little more time thinking (e.g., calculus) rather than feeling.
Benjamin S
Sun, May 7, 2017, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
What I don't get is this:

When faced with the problem given the planet, why did neither the inhabitants nor the Enterprise crew make the suggestion that perhaps they could adopt orphans in order to give them a good home? Or, perhaps, announce that they would take in settlers to their planet in return for the children of the settlers being taught to carry on their society? Certainly there are people out there looking for a home (what happened to the colony that they had to move during "Justice?")

I didn't have a problem with the episode or it's execution, but the fact that none of them suggested a less confrontational option was kind of silly.
Lupe
Sun, May 21, 2017, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
So long since I've seen season one of TNG that I'll refrain from commenting, other than having just noticed that this is the single Trek directorial outing by Kim Manners, who would famously go on to produce and direct X-Files and Supernatural, and to whom Vince Gilligan dedicated the Breaking Bad episode 'Breakage', on his death in 2009. I wonder how that one-off involvement came about.
Vlcn Lnc
Mon, Jul 24, 2017, 2:35am (UTC -5)
Was the leader of the Aldeans Bill Murray's brother?
Startrekwatcher
Wed, Nov 22, 2017, 12:54am (UTC -5)
3 stars

I enjoyedthis one. Liked myth of Aldea
Felt for aldeans
Genuine helplessness for the crew with Aldeans upper hand with shields and cloak

Neat idea in 24th century younger kids already studying calculus. Really appealed to me
Just an sllsround entertaining hour
James Alexander
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 4:41am (UTC -5)
BORING!
Rick
Tue, Dec 12, 2017, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
It does seem strange to me, that given the multi-ethnicity and multi-species acceptance that drives much of the narrative for this show, that of all the children taken were all white. No blacks, no Aisians, no one of color. Iā€™m not saying that there was a racist intent but it does seem odd.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Tue, Dec 19, 2017, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
So I was sort of dreading this one and didn't have good memories of it. But it's not quite as bad as I remembered.

I really don't like the opening and the utterly stupid dialogue about the "legend of Aldea." I hate the way Riker even says the word, and after he waxes on and on about the legend, Tasha's reply is incredible: "What a wonderful fairy tale."

HONEY, you have already experienced the following on your short tour of duty:

-- An omnipotent being who froze you at a 21st century trial and who later put in you a "penalty box" when you balked at fighting "vicious animal things."

-- You witnessed a jellyfish-like creature rise from a planet and fly off into space (and turn its body into its own spaceship)

-- You screwed an android after getting a weird space disease.

-- You were on the Enterprise when Wesley's boyfriend, "The Travelah," sent your ship not only to another galaxy but also to a place where thought becomes reality.

-- You beamed down to a planet where some portal type dude from 500,000 years ago didn't realize it was dead but still had the power to immobilize your starship.

-- You had recreational sex with people who worship some kind of machine-being that's there and not there and who want to employ capital punishment for falling into flower beds.

-- You saw your captain beam out into a possessive energy cloud to join it for good-times exploration (or were you too busy not keeping two diplomatic delegations apart?).

And this is a "wonderful fairy tale" that's beyond possibility in your world? This is what you scoff at and can't possible believe? PLEASE. Except for the weird cat fight, the wedding party bickering and meeting up with some gals more dominant that yourself, Aldea is the most normal mission you've been on!

What horrible writing. Poor Denise Crosby. OK -- got that off my chest.

In concept, I'm down with the story: Hidden planet, needs children, takes them. The execution was typical Season 1 clunky in many places, but there were a few positives:

-- Wesley, for once, is tolerable and believable in his efforts as the leader of the kids (who were bad little actors for the most part).

-- I like the actual kidnapping sequence of the Aldeans sending the landing party back and immediately transporting away the kids (though I think they could have milked the shock factor of that better)

-- The scene at the end when they walk into the huge cavern area storing the Provider computer was really good! Nice work for 1980s FX.

I think if the Season 3 team had done this show, it could have been a good one.

P.S.: Brenda Strong is in it, who later was the voice of the dead woman on "Desperate Housewives."

Bill
Sat, Feb 10, 2018, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
I've always had a soft spot for this episode. It was the first one that really addressed the idea of families on the Enterprise and the story potential of them being aboard. I regretted that, in the subsequent years of the show, we saw fewer and fewer civilian costumes among the hall-walking extras. And the disappearance of child extras period.

I've read a lot of the complaints above and, while I can agree with their logic, you have to address the reality that this is a television show. You can't afford dozens of child actors for crowd scenes that would advance the story not one iota. The same goes for the hordes of Aldeans we never saw. Maybe a couple of background extras walking around would have been nice to make Aldea seem like a populated world, but they weren't germane to the plot.

And when it comes to the complaints about the lack of hysteria among the ship's parents, you forget this is when the show was under the thumb of Gene Roddenberry and his ideas about an "enlightened" humanity where negative emotion and conflict don't exist. There were also mostly Starfleet officers, who would have faith that their commanding officer would work his magic and save the day.

Oh, and to the detractor who wanted to know how Riker knew Harry's name. Riker was the one who would mostly deal with the crew and civilian complement and it just makes sense he's familiar with them. Case in point, he also knew the names of Mathews and Pola, the two scamps who left the Chinese finger puzzle in the observation lounge in "The Last Outpost". Must be that advanced 24th Century memory they all have...
Bill
Sat, Feb 10, 2018, 5:04pm (UTC -5)
One final thought. Someone also mentioned the emphatic way Riker was pronouning the name "Aldea". Looking and listening closely, you can tell "Aldea" was being looped in post-production and Frakes was actually saying "Aldair", which was the planet's original name and changed after the first day of shooting. Dubbing always makes things sound more pronounced than normal.

But yes, the expositing between Riker and Yar was a little overwrought.
Cesar Gonzalez
Fri, May 18, 2018, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
Terrible episode.
Not as bad as 'Code of Honor', but close.
It bothers me how the kids have next to no emotion when they are kidnapped.
mephyve
Sat, May 19, 2018, 6:04pm (UTC -5)
We're stealing some of your children. Hope you don't mind. We'll give you some technology for them if you like. If you don't, well, so long; nice to meet you.
Be warned.
Rahul
Tue, May 29, 2018, 1:14pm (UTC -5)
Another boring TNG S1 episode -- just really not well thought out and downright boring. Did the writers think having some kids featured would work well? Based on TOS, I think they should know better.

This highly advanced society with superior technology than the Enterprise doesn't even bother to figure out what's wrong with them and so they think they can just kidnap children and, worse comes to worst, (presumably) defend themselves. No morals or anything. And of course, Crusher figures out what's wrong with them in a few days.

And the Aldeans have this supposed super computer -- the "Custodian" which is easily disarmed by Riker/Data (lower the planet's shields/cloak). It didn't even try to pull a Landru or disco cube ("That Which Survives") on the landing party.

I apologize for comparing this episode to "The Inner Light" but there was one thing that makes me say this -- this Aldean society wants to preserve itself, wants to preserve its art forms. It does this by kidnapping children whereas Picard's mind was basically kidnapped in the TNG classic. So there is an aspect of the society's preservation at stake here.

Interesting that the Custodian was build by the "Progenitors" -- from "The Chase" so that could explain how the Aldeans had the cloaking device for millennia. Some of these things are mind-boggling relative to the usual Trek. But I didn't like having these idiotic Aldeans in possession of such valuable knowledge.

And what of that room where the power source lies -- did they take the "God" from "Justice" and stick it in there for this episode? That's what it looked like to me.

Anyhow, the rescue operation is too standard, predictable (beam through fluctuation in the shield, etc.) The kids' passive resistance isn't tested -- the episode is just too lame, too docile. I don't think even 1 kid shed a tear at not being with their parents for a few days.

Barely 1.5 stars for "When the Bough Breaks" -- it's as if this episode is meant to be G-rated although there are serious issues at play -- but they're dulled down. The balance was off, urgency lacked, and the Aldean society seemed like it wanted to just focus on arts etc. and leave technology to the Custodian, except when threatened. The little girl fooling around with Picard couldn't even help this episode. Plenty of filler material.
mephyve
Sat, Jun 9, 2018, 6:19am (UTC -5)
In the Inner Light, Picard was essentially temporarily borrowed for a few hours. Here the plan was to take the children forever. One was a minor inconvenience. The other was malicious, unethical, deplorable, immoral and akin to a sex slave ring.
sternor
Tue, Jul 17, 2018, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
A race this stupid deserved infertility. That and because they were utterly barbaric
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Thu, Sep 13, 2018, 8:22pm (UTC -5)
A hunger strike? That has Gene's nonsense "kids are just tiny adults" philosophy written all over it. These Aldean's are so inept the kids should've just been kids. Running around screaming, crying, breaking furniture, then the Aldeans would be begging to give them back.

What really irritates me, aside from the absurdity that six or seven kids can repopulate a planet, is that the plot requires the Aldeans to be deliberately obtuse. Benjamin S mentioned adoption, colonization, and any number of other solutions that would be more palatable. This could've been solved in five minutes but the plot requires them to be morons for it to work.

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